3. My eyes remained dry. I felt my features turn stony. “Now I have to live,” I said to myself, “because I am alone and nothing can hurt me any more.”
Gerda’s thoughts, which appear in the first chapter of Part Two immediately after she has been separated from her mother, are paradoxical, for she implies that to lose everything is a kind of liberation. The natural reaction to losing all of one’s family members might tend toward becoming more self-destructive, but Gerda takes the opposite view. Thanks to Gerda’s unique optimistic viewpoint, even her most morbid thoughts, such as this one, reflect her positive perspective. Gerda finds that losing her family prompts her to go on living. She sees this loss as a new kind of freedom: now she doesn’t have to worry about her parents’ welfare or being forced to make the “right” decisions, and she can put her own desires before her duty to her parents, which feels like a reprieve from responsibility. Knowing that her only duty is to look out for her own survival allows her the discretion to express the feelings, such as rage she shows here, that she has kept inside for fear of upsetting her parents.
The idea that all suffering comes from attachment is reflected in Gerda’s thoughts: she believes that now that her family has been taken from her, she can no longer be hurt. However, this conclusion is much like her mother’s belief that once the Nazis took their house they were safe, because that was the worst injustice they could place upon them. Obviously, this is a miscalculation on both of their parts, for the Nazis continue to prove that they can always commit worse injustices. In a sense, though, the freedom Gerda now feels is very real. The loss of responsibility to her parents allows her the audaciousness to behave in ways that she would not have considered before, such as barging into the commander’s office at Sosnowitz, which ultimately benefits her.